Review: Somerley Tea Party 2016

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Whether you’re based in Southampton or Bournemouth, Somerley Tea Party is probably on your radar. Over the past three years the festival has pulled in heavy-hitting DJs with international acclaim. With Annie Mac, Eats Everything and Motor City Drum Ensemble atop its bill this year, it really isn’t a festival that you can ignore.

Despite its quirky setting in the grounds of the lavish Somerley Estate, one of the major factors setting the festival back in previous years was its day festival format. Sitting on the western fringe of the New Forrest, STP has relied on shuttle busses and taxis to ferry punters back to Bournemouth and Southampton, however the mass exodus around midnight on the Saturday has always been strenuous on the available transport. With that in mind, the expansion of the festival this year to include camping really takes the pressure off for those that want to make the most of what the festival has to offer, and an extra evening of music on the Friday night is the cherry on the cake.

Pitching camp on the Friday, early arrivals were treated to a sneak peek at the main event, as all but the Walled Garden (housing the mainstage) were open to explore. The introduction of a campsite came accompanied by a notable expansion of the festival site, and in addition to the woodland area came fairground rides, a big top tent, a smaller canopy covered stage hosted by the Arts University Bournemouth’s Student’s Union, and the marvelous RFID dome.

STP0006Though reduced in scale on the Friday night, STP certainly didn’t cut back on the quality of acts. Beneath the towering trunks of woodland area known to STP veterans as the Dog Kennel Woods a lively crowd were to be found boogying away to a funk and disco infused set from Ben Pearce. Now renamed the treehouse, in reference to the elevated wooden hut that serves as the DJ booth, this stage in the woodlands once again stole the show due to its unique atmosphere, however that’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty of other treats elsewhere.

A far smaller tent in comparison, but no less exciting, the RFID Dome, another new area for 2016 was a great example of STP’s continued efforts to innovate and experiment. The Recursive Function Immersive Dome was a cylindrical structure with projectors mounted on its walls that covered a whole 360 degree hemisphere, creating seamless moving images that arched overhead whilst the party moved on beneath. With some fantastic visuals that responded to the music, the effect was like being trapped inside a giant trembling iris.

Headlining the Big Top, seasoned German producer and DJ, Roman Flügel boldly started out his set with a no-nonsense techno workout, before reining it in a little with a more melodic assortment of tech-house that was as vibrant and colourful as you’d expect from veteran of Flügel’s caliber. In an effort to reserve some energy for the day ahead, I called it a night after Madam X’s set in the RFID. The Mancunian played with a delightful carefree attitude to genre that resulted in a parade of floor shakers that ranged from Lil Silva to JME.

Venturing out from the campsite at about midday on the Saturday I headed over to the circle of food stalls adjacent to the Big Top in search of lunch. The offering had something for everyone, and I opted for a classic greasy (in a good way) double cheeseburger to fuel up for the day ahead. First port of call after soaking up the atmosphere on the lawn in the Walled Garden was a cheerful early afternoon set from Motor City Drum Ensemble playing out from The Treehouse. The selection was just as feel-good and infectious as I’d been led to expect, and aside from being an enviable booking, the early afternoon slot was ideal as the summer sun peeked through the leafy canopy and a packed crowd enjoyed hands in the air moments time after time, throughout MCDE’s set.

STP0034Later on I returned to the Walled Garden to the sound of Oneman amping up the crowd with the instrumental to The Streets’ ‘Original Pirate Material’ opener ‘Turn the Page’. Oneman never fails to disappoint and his set at STP was no exception. Following swiftly on Annie Mac took to the stage. As you’d expect her set consisted of a lot of the tunes she’s helped elevate to mainstream acclaim on her Radio One shows, from Format B’s ‘Chunky’ to Redlight’s ‘9ts’. On top of this much of her set consisted of other records that have seen heavy rotation over the past year from Bicep’s rework of Isaac Tichauer’s ‘Higher Level’ to the Lee Walker rework of ‘Freak Like Me’. You could certainly call it a safe set, but Mac easily sported the biggest crowd of the day and with the best weather of the weekend the atmosphere was everything you’d want from a summer festival.

Returning to the woods Joy Orbison was slaughtering the crowd with some heavy industrial synths that you’d think would be able to uproot the trees. A couple of big piano house records offered some respite before a switch up into some old school jungle records in his final ten minutes.

STP0080The Galactic Wall itself was a new installation for 2016, but only really came into its element once night had fallen as the projectors weren’t strong enough to cast their visuals clearly onto the structure during daylight hours. Redlight took the reins at midnight, calling upon his extensive collection of hits throughout his set to be met by the best reactions. From ‘Get Out My Head’, to his recent ‘Templates’ compilation and his rework of ‘P.A.N.D.A.’, Redlight has proven over and over a consistent knack for pumping out floor fillers.

The Somerley Tea Party carried on well into the night, with something for everyone across all five stages.

7.7 Improved

The high calibre of artists and creative flair ensured that Somerly Tea Party stood out once again. This year has marked some bold shake ups to the formula, and it’s safe to say that the STP team have pulled them off. STP has come a long way in three years but still continues to pull in one of the friendliest crowds around, and thanks to the expanded site and camping it meant that even more could share in the festival’s quirky charm than before.

  • Pre Event Communication 8
  • At Event Communication 7
  • Travel To The Festival 6
  • Arrival At The Festival 7
  • Festival Epxerience 9
  • Toilets 7
  • Security & Crowd Control 7
  • All-Weather Planning 7
  • Creative Content 9
  • DJ/Artist Line-UP 9
  • Disabled Access 7
  • Food 8
  • Bars & Drinks 8
  • Cleanliness 8
  • Size/Scale 9
  • After-Hours Entertainment 9
  • Value for Money 8
  • Technical Specification 7
  • Sound Quality 7
  • Lighting/Effects/Pyro 8
  • Extra Attractions/Activities 7
  • Local Scene Connection 9
  • Green/Recycling 7
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